Plenty – Yottam Ottolenghi

After falling in love with River Cottage Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall I was intrigued by Plenty by Yottam Ottolenghi, and what, with this new healthy living kick, I was easily persuaded into buying a copy (especially as it’s £15 down from £25 at Amazon at the moment). See, although Yottam isn’t a vegetarian (nor is HFW by the way), Plenty is made up of vegetable based recipes.

When the book landed on my desk (getting items delivered at work makes my working day so much more fun) I was instantly impressed. It’s a chunky volume with a luxurious cushioned cover and smart minimalist design. Flicking through the book I quickly found a few recipes that I fancied and I knew that I was going to get on with this one.

Working out which recipes I was going to do this week was a bit tricky. Aside from there being so many to choose from, it wasn’t clear whether some were meant as sides/starters/snacks or mains. Recipes are organised into chapters according to their main ingredient; so there’s a tomato chapter and an aubergine chapter for instance. Having said all this I did manage to pin a few down and this is how I got on…

Spiced red lentils with cucumber yoghurt was packed full of flavours thanks to the inclusion of coriander, cumin, turmeric and ginger. It also had a bit of a chilli kick to it, although I would probably put more in next time. Apart from being tasty it was healthy and  filling; although to cut down on the calories I did skip the 70 grams of butter, 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil and 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, pulling the dish in at around 260 calories.

I made Castelluccio (or in my case puy) lentils with tomatoes and Gorgonzola for dinner but, for me, it was a bit disappointing. I wonder whether I just wasn’t in the mood for it, or whether it was just a bit too light for an evening dish, as I really enjoyed it for lunch the next day. It was another healthy one and despite the inclusion of the Gorgonzola, the dish was actually quite fresh as there was dill, chives and parsley in there. I didn’t have time to make my own oven dried tomatoes so I used some shop bought ones instead and, once again, I cut out all of the oil (I just used Fry Light instead) and the calories came in at about 370 a serving.

Roasted butternut squash with sweet spices, lime and green chilli was delicious. Yottam tells us that this is a starter dish for 4-6 people so I made the whole recipe to go between the two of us for dinner. It was light and very fragrant, thanks to the cardamom which permeated through the whole flat! With hot and citrussy flavours it was really tasty and it’s definitely something I will do again. Again, I cut out the majority of the oil, but as slices of butternut squash needed to brushed with a oil and spice mix I did need to use about a tablespoon. I think calories worked out at about 370.

The last dish I cooked was probably my favourite; The ultimate winter couscous. Carrots, parsnips, shallots & squash were roasted with cinnamon, star anise, ginger, chilli and the like and then cooked with apricots and chickpeas and finally served with saffron flavoured couscous. It was really good, really filling and very tasty. Thanks to the one and only tip I managed to pick up from Hairy Dieters I skipped all of the 5 tablespoons of olive oil just by using a little water when roasting the veg (I know it will have impaired the flavour but 5 tbsp of oil is approximately 600 calories!). I also skipped the 20 grams of butter that I was supposed to fluff the couscous up with bringing the dish in at around 380 calories.

So, what do I think? Well, I really like this one. I’ve enjoyed the dishes I cooked this week and there are loads more that I would like to try; cardamom rice with poached eggs and yoghurt, lemon and aubergine risotto, chickpea, tomato and bread soup and baked eggs with yoghurt and chilli to name just a few. Everything just sounds so interesting and with so many unusual flavour combinations and different styles of cooking I think this one is gonna keep me busy for a while… diet or no diet.

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